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Turkey Proposes International Palestinian ‘Protection Force’

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Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Sunday that an international Muslim “protection force,” supported by “military and financial contributions from willing countries,” should be deployed in Gaza.

“We should stand for justice and humanity. There should be no other considerations. This is time to show our unity and decisiveness. The ummah expects our leadership and courage, and Turkey is ready to take whatever action is necessary,” Cavusoglu said. “Ummah” refers to Muslims worldwide.

Cavusoglu held Israel solely responsible for the crisis in Gaza because it ignored warnings that Palestinian rage was mounting over restrictions on praying at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Jews allegedly settling on Palestinian land. He accused Israel of crimes against humanity, claiming its policies are part of a “systematic campaign of ethnic, religious, and cultural cleansing.”

Cavusoglu also attacked the United States for allegedly preventing the U.N. Security Council from issuing a statement against Israel. He said the U.N. Human Rights Council should send a “fact-finding commission” to investigate Israel’s alleged violations of international law and suggested Israel should be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The 57-member OIC issued a statement on Sunday accusing Israel of “barbaric” attacks and “systematic crimes” against the Palestinians. The conflict began last week with rocket attacks against Israeli civilians, many of them intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system. The Israelis responded with targeted attacks against Hamas assets and leaders.

In a characteristically overheated editorial at Turkey’s government-friendly Yeni Safak, editor-in-chief Ibrahim Karagül echoed Cavusoglu by saying it is time for Turkey to provide military assistance to the Palestinians.

Karagül railed against Israel as “the sole racist, genocidal state and the biggest terrorist organization posing as a ‘state’ on the face of the Earth,” accused the Israelis of plotting to provoke the current crisis so they could engage in “mass slaughter,” and congratulated Palestinian terrorists for becoming a “power that will set Israeli homes on fire” with their unexpectedly potent missile strikes. The fact that few Israeli homes are actually on fire, because the Iron Dome defense system has intercepted most of the attacks from Palestinian terrorists, was evidently lost on him.

“If Israel launches ground attacks on Gaza, a second front from Lebanon and a third front from Golan Heights will open against Israel. All three of these fronts will receive enormous support,” he threatened.

Karagül claimed Turkey’s rising power and influence have put Israel and its “puppets” (by which he means every Arab state that has good relations with Israel, but especially Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) on the defensive.

“Turkey’s return to the history scene, to the region formed an extraordinary power leap, and this excitement is now reflecting on Palestine as well. The confidence that gave rise to geopolitical aftershocks in Karabakh, Libya, and the East Mediterranean, that helped nurture a powerful political wave from Morocco to Indonesia. The impact of the Western world order teetering was being felt in Palestine,” he wrote.

Karagül worshipfully quoted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for comparing Turkey’s plans to protect the Palestinians with Turkey’s support for “Azerbaijan’s fight to recover Karabakh and its occupied lands” from Armenia last year.

An influential Turkish academic and former rear admiral named Gihat Yayci suggested Monday that Turkey could sign a “mutually beneficial” maritime deal with the Palestinians, similar to Turkey’s controversial pact with the Libyan government, that would give the Palestinians “control over a 10,200-square-kilometer maritime zone, which would pave the way for them to utilize all the resources at sea.”

Yayci noted such a deal would also expand Turkey’s jurisdiction over the Mediterranean, to the dismay of Greece and the Greek Cypriots. He rather optimistically predicted most other regional powers would be comfortable with a Libya-style maritime pact between Turkey and the Palestinians, and very optimistically suggested even Israel would find some consolation in recovering some 6,000 square miles of nautical territory “stolen” by the Greek Cypriots. 

Yeni Safak also pushed for a Turkish-Palestinian maritime deal based on the “Libya model” on Monday, suggesting the idea is gaining popularity among Turkey’s ruling party as a quick way to insinuate Turkey into the Palestinian conflict, while also advancing Turkey’s “Blue Homeland” strategy to control the Mediterranean and isolate Greece and Greek Cyprus.